Affiliate Marketing in 2021: What It Is & How You Can Get Started
Savvy e-commerce entrepreneurs know that there’s always more that could be done to help their business thrive and grow further. And one way to take things to the next level is finding an additional stream of income.
And no, we’re not talking about launching a second business.
Instead, what we have in mind is a way to complement your existing business – while generating significant online revenue anytime, anywhere, might we add.
Passive income – that’s the dream, right?
Seriously, if you’re still not participating in affiliate marketing, it’s time to learn more about this lucrative revenue stream.
That’s why today, we’ll be diving deeper into what affiliate marketing is and walking you through how to get started in this business. Ready?
Affiliate Marketing Definition: What Is Affiliate Marketing?
Maybe you’re still not entirely sure how affiliate marketing works in real life, but we can pretty much guarantee you’ve seen it in action before.
Some of the most common examples include “Best Of” product round-ups on review sites, promo codes shared by Instagram influencers, and the links to various products and services you’ll see in YouTube Annotations and video descriptions.
Is affiliate marketing online marketing? No – but it’s a sub-component of digital marketing that deals with commission-based earnings.
Affiliate marketing is, in essence, an advertising model where a company – known as the seller or product creator – compensates third-party publishers, or affiliates, for promoting the company’s products and services and generating sales, traffic, or leads.
That would be the simplest possible definition of affiliate marketing.
You could also define affiliate marketing as distributing product creation and marketing to different parties, where each party is earning the share of the revenue according to their contribution.
A pay-for-performance marketing program where selling is outsourced to a vast network of individuals if you will.
Either way, the idea is that an e-commerce merchant will hire an affiliate to reach a wider base of users and online shoppers, offering commission fees as a way to incentivize the third-party publishers to promote the company.
If the concept sounds a bit familiar, that’s because it’s not new. In fact, affiliate marketing predates the Internet.
However, it wasn’t until digital marketing, analytics, and cookies entered the stage that it started growing into the multi-billion industry it is today.
The Internet made this model much easier to implement and, with advancing technologies, improved affiliate marketing tracking, as well as the commissions on the qualified leads and sales earned through an affiliate program.
And if you think about it, the growing popularity of this advertising model makes perfect sense. Affiliate marketing creates a profitable win-win situation for both the e-commerce merchant and the affiliate.
How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?
At the most basic level, affiliate marketing works by distributing responsibilities related to product marketing and creation among several different parties in a way that leverages the abilities of individuals for more effective results – while also providing all contributors with a share of the profit.
You have a company that’s paying a commission to the affiliate – the person promoting the company to others, convincing them to purchase the product – and the consumers.
So, as you can see, three key players make this whole affiliate marketing game work as well as it does:
- The Seller – Vendor, merchant, product creator – be it a large enterprise or a solo entrepreneur – also known as the brand, is the party with a product or service to market to a new audience. They don’t have to be actively involved in marketing; companies that pay for affiliate marketing will leverage affiliates to promote their products.
- The Affiliate – The second party involved in the process is the publisher, be it an individual or a company that will market one or more affiliate products, convince consumers to purchase it, and, in turn, receive a portion of the revenue.
- The Consumer – They might not be aware of it, but the customer is the party that makes the entire affiliate system go ‘round. They’re the main driving force behind affiliate marketing because – well, if there are no sales, there are no commissions or revenue to be shared.
Amazon Associates is probably one of the most well-known affiliate marketing examples – not to mention one of the best affiliate programs, especially for those who are still building up their skills in this industry.
There’s no denying that affiliate marketing looks like an incredibly attractive opportunity to increase your income online. It yields great results for both parties – the company and the affiliate marketer – without affecting the consumer in any way.
But that gets us to another important question in terms of how it all works:
How do affiliate marketers get paid?
The answer could get a bit complicated because the way the affiliate’s contribution is measured generally depends on the program in question. However, generally speaking, affiliates are paid in one of the following ways:
- Pay per sale, which would be the standard means of compensating affiliates, is a program where the affiliate is paid commissions on actual sales – as in, only after the consumer makes a purchase
- Pay per lead is slightly more complex; the affiliate can be compensated for persuading consumers to complete the desired action – visiting the merchant’s website and subscribing to the newsletter, or filling out contact forms, for example
- Pay per click, where the publisher is compensated according to the increase in traffic to websites that have affiliate programs – or, in essence, paid affiliate traffic
Why Affiliate Marketing?
While affiliate marketing isn’t a new concept – it’s been around longer than the Internet – digital marketing turned it into one of the go-to tactics for driving sales and generating passive income.
And industry statistics and trends indicate that affiliate marketing is here to stay.
As reported by Business Insider, around 15% of e-commerce revenue is attributed to affiliate marketing.
Not impressive enough? Well, consider this:
Recent estimates also indicate that affiliate marketing will become an $8.2 billion industry by 2022 – which is quite an increase compared to 2017’s $5.4 billion.
It’s easy to see why 40% of marketers believe that affiliate marketing is a must – and up to 79% already use affiliate marketing tools to engage existing customers, boost online sales, and even raise brand awareness.
Those are just industry growth numbers, though. Here’s what’s in it for you:
- Passive Income – Affiliate marketing could, quite literally, help you make money while you sleep. You’ll see a steady flow of income long after your initial sources of traffic are set up and running.
- Flexibility – Affiliate marketing means no more company restrictions, set working hours, or any additional requirements and limitations. You are fully independent, meaning you set your own goals, scale your revenue, and diversify as you see fit.
- Cost-Effectiveness – There are no upfront investments or startup fees. Getting into affiliate marketing is as low cost as it can be, making it an incredibly low-risk money-making scenario – and yet, you can profit from it immensely.
- Performance-Based – Given that it’s a performance-based revenue option, your success depends on your affiliate marketing skills, which means you’ll get what you put into it. The better you become at it, the more your revenue can grow.
When you think about it, the majority of the world is already Internet-connected – and online sales are constantly growing. Maybe it’s time to use that to your advantage.
Yes, becoming successful with affiliate marketing will require dedication and effort. Then again, any type of business does.
Plus, with the industry stats pointing towards nothing but growth in the upcoming years – and the general levels of success that can be achieved with this approach – we have to ask you:
Why wouldn’t you want to become a part of affiliate marketing, too?
Is it going to be as straightforward as looking up “best affiliate niches 2021,” picking one of the suggested affiliate marketing websites, and diving head-first into it? Probably not.
But it doesn’t have to be hard.
Pick your platform and approach – Instagram affiliate marketing or affiliate blog sites, for example – decide on the best niche for affiliate marketing that aligns with your audience, and, well, get to work.